FORMULA 1 MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul
The Malaysian Grand Prix is the second of the triple header of Asian races.
Like Marina Bay, Sepang is a circuit which should suit the characteristics of the R.S.17 with its frequent flowing turns. The Malaysian Grand Prix has been a favourite on the Formula 1 calendar for 18 years and we hope the final race on this circuit will be special for everyone involved.
Looking back to Singapore, it was one of those mixed weekends which left us with bittersweet feelings. We were delighted for Jolyon to score his first points of the season. He drove extremely well in tricky conditions and remained cool amidst all the action to take an impressive sixth and bring in some big points for the team. However, we are obviously disappointed that we had to retire Nico’s car and will address the issues we faced.
We have extra incentive to continue to push hard to ensure both cars are in the points in Malaysia. A positive we can take from Singapore is that we have moved up a position in the Constructors’ Championship which means a step closer to our end of season goal of fifth place overall. Reliability remains our main focus, maximum effort and flawless execution is required by all in the remaining six races to achieve that target.
Sepang will be about negotiating the unpredictable climate and getting the best out of the whole package in the heat and humidity. As we continue to develop the chassis side, we will introduce a new engine on Nico’s car at the start of the weekend, his fourth, engine of the season. We fully expect to have both cars in the top ten as we have shown our capability on a number of occasions to be the best team behind the top three.
Elsewhere across Renault Sport Racing it was pleasing to see Jack Aitken get his maiden outing in in the 2012 spec Renault V8 powered E20 Formula 1 car on Wednesday in Jerez. Jack has been developing well throughout his time with the Renault Sport Academy and this is a real milestone in his driving career.
Finally, I would like to thank the Malaysian Grand Prix and everyone involved at the Sepang International Circuit. For Renault, this event has been successful and memorable. In total, Renault have six wins, six pole positions and four fastest laps across the 18 years that Malaysia has been on the Formula 1 calendar. A proud moment for us came on March 22nd 2003, when Fernando Alonso became the youngest F1 pole-sitter at the time – the rest is history, as they say!
Hot and humid
Technical Director Nick Chester talks through the challenges of the Sepang circuit as well as the extremely unpredictable weather in Malaysia which could provide some surprises.
How are things looking ahead to Malaysia?
We ought to go quite well in Malaysia with the mixture of low, medium and high speed corners. We should be the fourth quickest car again. The car has good pace and it looked strong in the wet in Singapore. The wet running we had in Singapore is useful information for us, given Malaysia is known to throw up a few surprises with its changeable climate. Overall the car is working reasonably well at this stage in the season.
Are there any updates for Sepang?
A few things for Malaysia are on the way including some tighter rear bodywork which is the main development. This will combine with some set-up progress we’ve been making, in particular over the past few races.
Any memories from the 18 years Malaysia has been on the calendar?
I like Malaysia, it’s a good track. I did the first one in 1999 which seems like a lifetime ago. There have been many challenging races there and the climate has often combined with the circuit to keep everyone on the pit wall and in the cockpit working very hard indeed. It will be missed from the calendar.
An unfortunate technical issue prevented Nico Hülkenberg from a career equalling best result in Singapore. But he is keen to dust himself down and prepare for the heat and humidity of Malaysia.
What are your thoughts on the Malaysian Grand Prix?
It’s one of the hottest Grands Prix of the year and we are tested and pushed to the limits. We have to drink a lot of fluids because we lose so much during the race. The track is challenging with lots of high speed corners and fast combinations. I enjoy going to Malaysia. The weather is always different to Europe and takes a bit of getting used to. When you fly there you can see the rainforest which is cool. Rhythm is important around Sepang and it’s a nice feeling when it goes right.
How’s the circuit to drive?
Turn one goes on forever, it’s quite tricky to get right. It’s important to find a good flow and keep a good rhythm. The final sector is slightly slower and a bit more technical with long, sweeping corners. This year’s cars will mean some of these bends will be very, very quick. It’s always hard to find the right balance and tyre degradation is usually quite high. You need to be early on the throttle for both the back straight and then the start and finish straight.
How do you reflect on Singapore?
Sunday was tough to take and left me feeling disappointed. We lost a good result, and it was a case of not having a good enough reliability; that’s the way this sport goes sometimes. We lost our fourth position which is a pity especially after all the hard work from the whole team. It would have been a nice bunch of points but that’s racing and it happens! The car is looking fast and we have to build on the positives and take it forward now to Malaysia.
A classy and composed drive from Jolyon Palmer saw him secure a career best sixth place finish in Singapore. And he is ready to go on a Sepang circuit which gave him a maiden Formula 1 points finish last season.
What are your thoughts on Sepang?
It’s always nice and warm there and I tend to do well in these humid races; Malaysia last year, Singapore this year so I’m looking forward to it. It’s a cool track with a good atmosphere to match. It’s a flowing circuit with some long straights, fast corners and hard braking zones. We have a bit of confidence going there. The car keeps getting better, I’m certainly improving too so we’ll aim to get another good result.
Is it a feeling of relief to get the first points of the season?
Finally we had a smooth race which is ironic given what was going on with the safety cars and the tricky weather conditions. We made a good start, and the move on Bottas was fun; a lot happened in the two hours. It feels like a weight off the shoulders to get some points, I hope to push on now and get some more. I know I can do it.
What’s your record in Malaysia like?
I raced in Sepang twice when I was in GP2 but for various reasons at the time I didn’t have any memorable finishes, although one year I came up to ninth from the back of the grid. Last year I got my first Formula 1 point; there are plenty of overtaking opportunities on the track so I’ll be looking to make the most of it and add some more points.
Have you seen the sights of Malaysia?
I’ve seen a little bit of it but we don’t always have time to see the places we visit because we have busy schedules. Kuala Lumpur is a really cool city to explore and downtown you can visit the very modern areas with the big famous towers and then you have the more traditional areas and the markets. The city’s got a great vibe.
Aitken hungry for more after maiden Formula 1 test
Renault Sport Academy Driver Jack Aitken enjoyed a first outing in the 2012 spec Renault V8 powered E20 Formula 1 car in a test day at Jerez on Wednesday (20 September).
Jack completed a number of assessments and evaluations around the 4.428km Spanish circuit in the E20 as part of his development programme with the Academy.
The 21-year-old returns to action in the GP3 Series in Jerez 6-8 October as he focuses his charge on chasing down championship leader and team-mate, George Russell, in the title battle.
“It was a massively enjoyable day, the team made me feel welcome from the start and did a great job in educating me on how a race team operates. I got plenty of laps in and learnt even quicker than I expected, which was nice! So my thanks again to Renault for this opportunity, and the Academy too.”
Mixed weekend for Lundgaard and García in Barcelona
Renault Sport Academy Drivers Christian Lundgaard and Marta García endured an up and down weekend as the Spanish F4 Championship travelled to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Christian’s lead at the top of the championship was cut to 42 points after he managed a second and a fourth place across the two races.
The Dane was uncharacteristically off the pace for much of the weekend, starting fourth and fifth in the races. In the opener Christian could not quite make the decisive pass on team-mate Bent Viscaal who took the flag by half a second.
Marta again topped the timesheets in practice but could not quite replicate that pace in qualifying and the races.
From seventh on the grid in race one, Marta finished eighth, whilst in race two the Spanish teen came in ninth after starting sixth.
Christian Lundgaard: “It was a frustrating weekend for me. The pace was average and I was surprised to see others so fast in qualifying. I did my best during the races finishing a narrow second and fourth. Now I’m switching my focus onto whatever comes next.”
Marta García: “My free practice sessions were very good and I had a decent qualifying. But then the races weren’t great and I didn’t have the pace to be in top five. I finished eighth in the first race and then in the second race a driver crashed into me when I was seventh and that put me back to ninth. So overall it’s frustrating but there are plenty more races left on the calendar.”
The 5.543km Sepang International Circuit has been on the Formula 1 calendar since 1999. It features a number of medium-speed to fast curves as well as a couple of tight hairpins which means finding the right setup balance is tricky. The back straight and the start-finish straight will be a good DRS overtaking opportunity come race day. The weather often plays a part in Malaysia with rain a constant occurrence due to its hot and humid climate.
Pit straight: The ICE will be flat out for around 10secs with speeds reaching over 330kph with DRS activated.
T1/2: The first overtaking opportunity of the lap as DRS is available on the previous straight. The track is heavily cambered into Turn 2, which is a challenge for car setup. Good engine driveability is required through Turns 1 and 2, the second of which leads to a high-speed section so a good exit is needed.
T3: Turn three is easily flat out as the drivers fire onto a sweeping straight which leads into the heavy braking right-hander of turn four.
T5/6: Turns 5 and 6 are two of the fastest corners on the track, taken at over 230kph. These high-speed turns require stiff suspension. The car can be run lower and stiffer as there are no high kerbs in Sepang.
T7/8: A long double corner which is hard on the tyres after the previous high speed section.
T9: A slow corner where the track camber makes traction tricky on the exit.
T12: Another very high speed kink which will probably be flat out this year.
T13/14: The long laterally loaded entry after the previous high speed corners makes this a challenging corner. It can be limited by understeer or oversteer depending on the car and tyre characteristics.
T15: DRS on the straight leading up to this corner makes this an overtaking opportunity. Traction is tricky off this corner in qualifying as the rear tyres start to overheat.
Power Unit Notes:
• The ICE will be running at full throttle for around 62% of the lap. This is one of the higher percentages of the season, particularly when compared to Singapore which was around 47%. The longest periods of wide open throttle are the pit straight and the back straight before the hairpin, both of which are around 900m each.
• The humidity of the Malaysian climate reduces the air to fuel mix so theoretically gives the ICE an easier run as the greater the water content in the air, the less oxygen is available to burn. A turbocharged engine, however, always equalizes ambient pressure within the ICE so this effect will be mitigated.
• The hairpin connecting the two straights and the T1-2 corner complex puts an emphasis on turbo response.
• Sepang is medium difficulty for the MGU-K since the majority of corners are medium to high speed. The opportunity to recover energy through braking is therefore minimal and fuel consumption is high.
• Just under 50% of the Sepang lap is comprised of straights so the MGU-H has plenty of opportunity to recover energy from the exhaust gasses. In fact, Sepang is one of the most efficient circuits in this regard.
Medium (white) – Nasi Lemak – Often considered as the national dish, it’s a punchy, coconut infused bundle of rice with a spicy side.
Soft (yellow) – Roti Canai – This simple but popular bread is versatile and can be served with anything.
Supersoft (red) Kuay Teow Goreng – Fried rice noodles; everyone’s go to choice!
2.2 – The biggest roundabout in the world is in Malaysia at 2.2 miles in diameter.
130,000m – the Taman Negara is amongst the oldest rainforests on Earth at 130,000m years old.
20 – It is estimated that Malaysia has 20% of the world’s animal species.
4,095 – At 4,095 metres, Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia.
Renault, as a manufacturer team, have enjoyed two victories around the Sepang circuit across its 18 years on the Formula 1 calendar. Those wins came back-to-back in 2005 and 2006 across the two Championship winning years. Fernando Alonso led from the lights to the flag in 2005 winning by 24 seconds from former Renault team-mate Jarno Trulli giving Alonso his 10th Formula 1 podium.
The following year, Renault again won from pole position, only this time Giancarlo Fisichella took victory with Alonso finishing second for the Renault one-two which was the Spaniard’s 25th Formula 1 podium finish. Alonso also secured the fastest lap of the race that day.
Renault, and Alonso in particular, hold good memories in Malaysia. In 2003, the then 21-year-old became the youngest Formula 1 pole sitter at the time when he pipped team-mate Trulli by 0.173s for his maiden Formula 1 pole position. And in the race, Alonso finished third for his first Formula 1 podium.
Renault have powered a further four victories around Sepang, three of which coming from Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Daniel Ricciardo, again in a Red Bull, won in Malaysia last season.
Microsoft: Microsoft and Renault Sport Formula One Team
Technology has always been a fundamental aspect of Formula 1 and engineers and scientists involved in the design and development of the fastest racing cars in the world need the right tools to stay ahead in this grueling innovation race.
In this respect, Microsoft Dynamics 365 solutions have been helping Enstone since the inception of the partnership in 2012. An array of Microsoft business solutions has already made its mark and, by moving some of their operations into the cloud, Renault Sport Formula One Team have made considerable steps in agility and cost saving.
Yet, since their return to the sport as a Constructor in 2016, there are now new frontiers of technology Renault Sport Formula One Team are exploring with Microsoft and the team’s CIO Pierre d’Imbleval. Both have a clear view of the potential Azure Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence on one side and HoloLens and Augmented Reality on the other. These developments will further enhance the team in the near future.
“Artificial Intelligence could be the next seminal breakthrough in the digital transformation plan,” he explains. “A lot can happen in the 90 seconds across a lap. We have more than 200 sensors on our car that, combined into virtual channels, send back to the pits thousands of streams of information.
“Bots coded with algorithms can process data many times faster than humans and the potential of having an AI engine behind the scenes, looking at the combined behavior between channels and identifying patterns, is huge.
“We need help to make the best decisions in the shortest possible time but there are other implications,” Pierre continues: “Not only would faster AI-integrated information boost race performance, it will also help to identify patterns that lead to failures and improve reliability, which is another crucial aspect of competitiveness in Formula One.” d’Imbleval is planning for trackside AI to be in place next racing season.
Azure ML helps predict better tyre degradation in order to adjust precisely the car set up for each track as well correlate data along the Aero design process from 3d modelling to testing sessions through the wind tunnel results.
Other engineering disciplines will also benefit from a mixed reality environment as IT engineers are exploring the possibility of using Microsoft HoloLens to visualize airflow and vortexes over the complex curvatures of the R.S.17 bodywork and mixed reality is being assessed as an aid to guide technicians during particularly delicate phases of car assembly.
Yet Pierre’s vision for Augmented reality is not limited to engineering applications. “The technology is there to allow fans to visualize information without taking their eyes off the race track,” and he concludes with a smile: “Perhaps one day we will see a grandstand full of HoloLensed fans watching the race with a lot more knowledge about what’s happening than they can’t even dream of today!”